Title:
Buckle construction and method for incrementally adjusting tightness/looseness of a band, such as a belt, strap or the like
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A buckle construction for adjusting the desired length of a band, such as a belt, strap or the like includes a buckle/tongue construction where the tongue is modified to engage a selected aperture on one end of a band, such as a belt. Tightening or loosening of the belt can be achieved over a distance less than that between two adjacent apertures on the band. In one preferred embodiment, the tongue is provided with a retainer portion formed intermediate the end of the tongue, dimensioned to releasably engage a selected aperture and hold it in position away from the free end of the tongue, to incrementally shorten or lengthen the loop distance of the band or belt.



Inventors:
Cress, John T. (San Francisco, CA, US)
Application Number:
10/177791
Publication Date:
12/25/2003
Filing Date:
06/19/2002
Assignee:
CRESS JOHN T.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A44B11/24; (IPC1-7): A41F3/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SMITH, JAMES G
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Kolisch, Hartwell, Dickinson, McCormack & Heuser (Portland, OR, US)
Claims:
1. An adjustable buckle/band assembly for detachably interconnecting first and second ends of an elongate band to form a loop of desired length for encircling an object, wherein the first end of the band includes a plurality of spaced-apart apertures, the assembly comprising: a buckle member connected to the second end of the band; a tongue member having a free end and an opposite end pivotally connected to the buckle member so that the free end can be oriented for insertion into and extension through a selected one of the apertures; and a retainer portion provided on the tongue member intermediate its ends configured for releasably engaging the sides of a selected aperture to retain the first and the second ends of the band fixed relative to one another thereby to preselect the length of a loop different from the length obtained when the aperture is moved away from the retainer portion toward the free end.

2. The buckle/band assembly of claim 1, wherein the retainer portion is configured to define tongue sections which are offset from one another.

3. The buckle/band assembly of claim 2, wherein the tongue sections transition into an abutment element configured to engage and detachably retain a selected aperture of the first end.

4. The buckle/band assembly of claim 1, wherein the tongue member includes an abutment element mounted thereon substantially spherical in form for releasably engaging a selected aperture.

5. The buckle/band assembly of claim 1, wherein the tongue member includes an abutment member mounted thereon formed as a flange element configured for releasably engaging a selected aperture.

6. The buckle/band assembly of claim 1, wherein the tongue member is provided with a pair of retainer portions intermediate the ends of the tongue member, each retainer portion spaced-apart from the other and each configured for individual insertion into and releasable engagement with a selected aperture to retain the first and second ends of the band fixed relative to one another to preselect a desired length of loop.

7. In a buckle/band assembly, wherein the band includes opposed first and second ends, with a plurality of spaced-apart apertures provided adjacent the first end, and a buckle/tongue assembly mounted on the second end, the improvement comprising: a tongue member having a retainer portion provided intermediate its length configured for releasably engaging the sides of a selected aperture to retain the first and the second ends of the band fixed relative to one another thereby to preselect the length of a loop different from the length obtained when the aperture is moved away from the retainer portion toward the free end.

8. The improvement of claim 7, wherein the retainer portion is configured to define tongue sections which are offset from one another.

9. The improvement of claim 8, wherein the tongue sections transition into an abutment element configured to engage and detachably retain a selected aperture of the first end.

10. The improvement of claim 7, wherein the tongue member includes an abutment element mounted thereon substantially spherical in form for engaging a selected aperture.

11. The improvement of claim 7, wherein the tongue member includes an abutment member mounted thereon formed as a flange element configured for engaging a selected aperture.

12. The improvement of claim 7, wherein the tongue member is provided with a pair of retainer portions intermediate the ends of the tongue member, each retainer portion spaced-apart from the other and configured for individual insertion into and releasable engagement with a selected aperture to retain the first and second ends of the band fixed relative to one another to preselect a desired length of loop.

13. A buckle/tongue construction adapted for detachably interconnecting first and second ends of an elongate band to form a loop of desired length for encircling an object, wherein the first end of the band includes a plurality of spaced-apart apertures, the assembly comprising: a buckle member adapted for connection to the second end of a band; a tongue member having a free end and an opposite end adapted to be pivotally connected to the buckle member so that the free end can be oriented for insertion into and extension through a selected aperture on a band; and a retainer portion provided on the tongue member intermediate its ends configured for releasably engaging the sides of a selected aperture to retain the first and the second ends of the band fixed relative to one another thereby to preselect the length of a loop different from the length obtained when the aperture is moved away from the retainer portion toward the free end.

14. The buckle/tongue construction of claim 13, wherein the retainer portion is configured to define tongue sections which are offset from one another.

15. The buckle/tongue assembly of claim 14, wherein the tongue sections transition into an abutment element configured to engage and detachably retain a selected aperture of the first end.

16. The buckle/tongue assembly of claim 13, wherein the tongue member includes an abutment element mounted thereon substantially spherical in form for releasably engaging a selected aperture.

17. The buckle/tongue assembly of claim 13, wherein the tongue member includes an abutment member mounted thereon formed as a flange element configured for releasably engaging a selected aperture.

18. The buckle/tongue assembly of claim 13, wherein the tongue member is provided with a pair of retainer portions intermediate the ends of the tongue member, each retainer portion spaced-apart from the other and each configured for individual insertion into and releasable engagement with a selected aperture to retain the first and second ends of the band fixed relative to one another to preselect a desired length of loop.

19. A method for selectively adjusting the length of a band to form a loop for encircling an object, wherein the band includes a first end provided with a plurality of spaced-apart apertures, and a second end connected to a buckle/tongue assembly, the method comprising: providing a buckle member connected to a tongue member having a free end and an opposite end pivotally connected to the buckle member; positioning the first end of the band adjacent the buckle; inserting the free end of the tongue member into a selected aperture; and displacing the first end of the band member relative to the tongue member until the aperture engages an intermediate portion of the tongue member.

20. The method of claim 19 wherein the inserting step includes releasably engaging a retainer portion on the tongue member against the sides of the selected aperture.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. Field of the Invention

[0002] The present invention is directed generally to a buckle construction for adjusting the desired length of a band, such as a belt, strap or the like. More particularly, the present invention is directed to a novel buckle/tongue construction in which the tongue is modified to engage a selected aperture on one end of a band, such as a belt, so that tightening or loosening can be achieved over a distance less than that between two adjacent apertures on the band.

[0003] In conventional belts, used with clothing, such as trousers, dresses or the like, a buckle is mounted on a first end of the belt and includes a tongue pivotally connected thereto. The free end of the belt, which includes a plurality of spaced-apart apertures, is directed beneath a forward portion of the buckle and inserted upwardly through the buckle's opening so the tongue can be inserted into and engaged with a selected aperture, in accordance with a desired length for encircling the waist or other body portion. The aperture selected is usually based on comfort, the tightness or looseness of the belt is determined by selecting the appropriate aperture, and the belt is then closed by permitting the tongue to pivot downwardly against a forward end of the buckle so that it is maintained in position.

[0004] 2. Description of the Prior Art

[0005] In a conventional buckle/band construction, and in particular with reference to a buckle/belt construction, the buckle includes a tongue mounted on one end of the band with the opposite end having a plurality of spaced-apart apertures, generally indexed or spaced-apart approximately 1-inch, but that can vary. The end of the belt is inserted into the buckle and the tongue inserted into a selected aperture chosen by the wearer of the belt. Watchbands include a similar construction. It can be appreciated that this type of arrangement does not provide for an incremental adjustment between adjacent apertures. Belt, watchband and other manufacturers apparently assume that the distance between adjacent apertures for indexing is ordinarily sufficient. In the case of belts, a person may wish to tighten or loosen the belt a distance less than that between a pair of adjacent apertures. For example, if the proper position were between a pair of apertures, a person would have to punch or cut a new aperture. Belts may be made of leather or synthetic materials and fabricating an attractive aperture is cumbersome to do.

[0006] Others have attempted to create belts, such as trouser belts with an adjustment mechanism of some type. For example, in U.S. Pat. No. 6,108,821, a trouser belt is provided with a serrated construction extending from one end which cooperate with ratchets so that the length of the belt may be varied. In U.S. Pat. No. 5,673,463, a belt with a so-called “micro-adjustment” buckle is disclosed which includes a male buckle having a serrated plate and a securing element provided at one end thereof. The other end of the belt is inserted through the securing element to lie flat against and engage the serrated plate for being retained therein.

[0007] A belt buckle construction is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,765,265 in which adjustment is provided by a tongue assembly having a main barrel and an articulating toggle. The toggle can be oriented into two different positions and when the buckle is closed, the end of the toggle is set. Still another example of a buckle is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,878,466 where first and second buckle members are interconnected by a lever member which enables the belt to be held more tightly in one position than in another. Further examples of buckles are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 701,561 and 898,366. In the '561 buckle, a tongue is provided which is pivotally connected about a body of a buckle. The tongue includes a bend to accommodate a so-called finger-piece which can be pivoted to engage the tongue behind its bend for maintaining the tongue in a locked position. In the '366 patent, a belt buckle is disclosed in which the tongue is shaped in the form of a corkscrew.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] The present invention provides an incrementally adjustable buckle-tongue assembly enabling incremental adjustment between adjacent apertures in a band, such as a belt, strap or the like without the necessity of punching or cutting an intermediate aperture between adjacent apertures. This is accomplished by a unique tongue member in which a retainer portion is formed intermediate the ends of the tongue member, dimensioned to releasably engage a selected aperture and hold it in position away from the free end of the tongue, to incrementally shorten or lengthen the loop distance of the band or belt, as the case may be. Thus, if a person wishes to tighten a belt, and movement of the tongue from one aperture to another would provide an uncomfortable tightness, use of the retainer portion will enable an incremental change between the two apertures. If, for instance, the distance between adjacent apertures is 1-inch, the tongue member may be provided with a retainer portion which will engage an aperture so that the effective tightening is only one-half, for example, the distance between the adjacent apertures. A similar method is used, in the opposite direction, to provide loosening of a distance less than that between a pair of adjacent apertures. Depending on which apertures are used, incremental changes between all of the apertures may be provided as needed. In a conventional belt, the connecting tongue is moved from one aperture to another to select the length of a desired belt loop. In these types of belts, there is no provision for selecting a loop length corresponding to a dimensional increment between adjacent apertures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0009] FIG. 1 is a frontal view, of first and second ends of a belt, showing a buckle/tongue in accordance with the present invention prior to insertion of one end of the belt into the buckle;

[0010] FIG. 2 is a view similar to that of FIG. 1, in which an end of the belt has been inserted into the buckle for securing the belt in a conventional manner;

[0011] FIG. 3 is a view similar to FIGS. 1 and 2, in which an incremental adjustment of the belt has been made in a tightening sequence so that the belt is tightened one-half the distance that it would have been tightened had the tongue been moved to the next downstream aperture;

[0012] FIG. 4 is a view similar to FIGS. 1 and 3 showing a loosening sequence using the buckle/tongue construction of the present invention;

[0013] FIG. 5 is an enlarged view, looking upwardly into the belt/tongue construction of the present invention illustrating a first embodiment of the tongue pivoted upwardly and showing its bend or “step” retainer portion;

[0014] FIG. 6 is a view similar to FIG. 5 showing an end of a belt which has been pulled upwardly through the opening in the buckle so that the tongue member has been inserted through an aperture;

[0015] FIG. 7 is a view similar to FIG. 6 showing the tongue member of the present invention in its secured position;

[0016] FIG. 8 is a view showing another embodiment of a retainer portion, formed as a notch;

[0017] FIG. 9 is a view similar to FIG. 8 in which the retainer portion includes a pair of bends or “steps” are formed on the tongue member;

[0018] FIG. 10 is a view similar to FIGS. 8 and 9 showing a retainer portion formed as a hook or curved portion;

[0019] FIG. 11 is a view similar to FIGS. 8-10 showing a retainer portion formed as an abutment member shaped as a spherical element; and

[0020] FIG. 12 is a view similar to FIGS. 8-11 showing a retainer portion formed as a rearwardly inclined flange.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0021] As stated previously, the present invention is directed to a buckle/band assembly for detachably interconnecting first and second ends of an elongate band, such as a belt or strap, to provide an incremental adjustment of the band's loop length. This is accomplished by a buckle/tongue construction in which the tongue member includes a retainer portion intermediate its ends configured for releasably engaging the sides of a selected aperture in one end of the band.

[0022] As shown in FIG. 1, a buckle member, indicated at 10, is connected to a first end 12 of a belt which extends or loops around (not shown) to the opposite, or second end indicated at 14, which is provided with a plurality of apertures, as is conventional, indicated at 16, 18 and 20. Buckle member 10 is shown as a rectangular or square-shaped ring, having a front bar 22, a rear bar 24 and upper and lower bars 26 and 28, respectively, thereby to form an opening through which second end 14 may be inserted. A tongue member, indicated at 30, is provided according to the present invention, with a retainer portion 32, to be described. It can be seen that tongue member 30 includes a free end 30a and an opposite end 30b pivotally connected to bar 24 of buckle member 10. The pivotal connection enables free end 30a to be inserted into a suitable aperture, such as one of those shown at 16-20, depending upon the length of a loop desired. While FIG. 1 shows a buckle member in connection with a belt, it is to be appreciated that the construction now being described finds ready application for bands and straps, which utilize buckles, for encircling an object.

[0023] As shown in FIG. 2, tongue member 30 has been inserted into an aperture 18, with first end 14 directed upwardly through the opening in the buckle member so that it receives the tongue in a fully closed or clamped position. In this configuration, the belt or band would be in a tighter position than if tongue 30 were inserted through aperture 20.

[0024] However, it is often the case that a person wearing a belt may wish to adjust it by tightening or loosening it incrementally to some position intermediate of a pair of adjacent holes, such as holes 16 and 18. In a conventional belt/band construction, it would not be possible to incrementally tighten the belt to a loop length between apertures 16 and 18. The present invention, however, can accomplish just that. For example, a person may desire to tighten the belt shown in FIG. 2 to a position corresponding to an intermediate aperture 19, which does not exist (one-half of the distance X between holes 18 and 20). The present invention, through a modification of tongue member 30 enables the tongue to be inserted so that the resultant loop will be set with a desired length as if the tongue member were extended through an intermediate aperture, such as that shown at 19 which, of course, does not exist.

[0025] The tongue member of the present invention, as shown in FIG. 5, includes a discontinuity configured as a retainer portion 32 provided on tongue member 30 intermediate its ends configured for releasably engaging the sides of a selected aperture of the belt to retain the first and second ends fixed relative to one another. In one embodiment, as shown in FIG. 5, retainer portion 32 is formed as a bend or “step,” approximately midway between free end 30a and opposite end 30b. The bend or step interconnects tongue sections which are offset from one another. Many belts are made with a tongue member having an overall length approximating that between adjacent apertures, and the drawings herein follow that convention, although different arrangements are common. While the retainer portion is shown approximately midway between the ends of the tongue, it could be placed two-thirds of the distance, three-quarters, etc., depending on the amount of incremental adjustment desired.

The Incremental Adjusting Sequence to Tighten or Loosen

[0026] As shown in FIG. 6, when first end 14 of the belt is inserted beneath bar 22 and pushed upwardly into the opening between bars 26, 28 of the buckle member, tongue 32 is suitably positioned so that its free end 30a is oriented for insertion into and extension through a selected one of the apertures, such as that indicated at 18. FIG. 6 shows retainer portion 32 inserted through aperture 18, but the belt may be loose, and it may be necessary to tuck first end 14 beneath loop 13 and pull the first end toward the right (with reference to FIGS. 6 and 7) before aperture 18 slips over retaining portion 32 so that it is retained. As shown in FIG. 7, first end 14 has been tucked under loop 13 so that the belt is clamped or held fast. This is the same configuration as shown in FIG. 3, where free end 30a is urged against bar 22 and the bend or step of retainer portion 32 releasably engages the sides of aperture 18 to retain the first and second ends of the belt fixed relative to one another thereby to preselect the length of a loop different from the length obtained when hole 18 is moved away from the retainer portion toward free end 30a, as shown in FIG. 2.

[0027] In FIG. 3, belt 18 has been tightened a distance of ½ X instead of the distance X, if aperture 16 were selected for being held against bar 22 and free end 30a. Thus, by the simple construction of modifying tongue member 30, as shown, with the retainer portion, an incremental adjustment between a pair of apertures, such as apertures 16 and 18 may be made which is the same incremental adjustment that would be made as if there were an aperture in the position indicated at 21, i.e., between hole 16 and 18.

[0028] An incremental adjustment to tighten is very simple, even while the belt is already being worn. For example, assumes that the belt is secured in the position shown in FIG. 2, with free end 30a inserted through aperture 18. If a person wishes to tighten the belt, to an intermediate position of approximately ½ the distance from aperture 16 to aperture 18, it is only necessary to pull first end 14 to the right, as shown in FIG. 3, until the retainer portion engages the sides of aperture 18 to retain the first and second ends of the belt fixed relative to one another. The sequence of tightening is shown in FIGS. 6 and 7, viewed in conjunction with FIGS. 2 and 3.

[0029] In connection with a loosening sequence, attention is redirected to FIG. 2 and it is assumed that it is desired to loosen the belt a distance intermediate between apertures 18 and 20. Second end 14 is pulled outwardly from loop 13 and pulled upwardly so that free end 30a of the tongue member is retracted from aperture 18. The belt is loosened and free end 30a is inserted through aperture 20 and pulled, to the right as shown in FIG. 4, to the position whereby the retainer portion engages the side of aperture 20, and is held in position until such time that it is released by the wearer. Of course, if it is desired to loosen the belt incrementally further, it is necessary only to release second end 14 so that the retainer member is released from engaging the sides of aperture 20, and the belt may be shifted to the left, viewing FIG. 4, until aperture 20 is seated or “nested” against free end 30a and bar 22 of the buckle member.

[0030] Different embodiments of the retainer member are shown in FIGS. 8-12. For example, as shown in FIG. 8, the retainer portion includes a notch 32b configured for releasably engaging the sides of a selected aperture. In FIG. 9, a pair of bends or “steps,” indicated at 32c and 32d are provided for enabling even further incremental adjustments. Bend 32c will provide an incremental adjustment of an amount different than bend 32d, depending on which portion is inserted in a selected aperture. A “hook” configuration is shown at 32e in FIG. 10, and a spherical element is shown at 32f in FIG. 11. A simple flange, indicated at 32g is shown in FIG. 12, and it should be appreciated that other modifications of a tongue member, including different forms of abutment members or elements, within the scope and spirit of the present invention, could be provided to releasably engage the sides of a selected aperture to provide incremental adjustments between adjacent apertures in a band, such as a belt, strap or the like.

[0031] From the above description, it should be appreciated that the present invention provides an extremely simple modification of a buckle, in particular, only a modification of the tongue to provide incremental adjustment of the length of a loop, of a belt, strap or band for purposes of tightening or loosening. There is no requirement to punch or cut additional holes in a band, belt or strap and tightening and loosening can be quickly and simply accomplished. The retainer portion of the tongue can be formed as a bend or “step,” a notch, “hook,” spherical abutment, flange, etc. All of these are relatively simple designs and the criteria is that the retainer portion, of whatever form, provides an abutment element configured to engage and detachably or releasably retain a selected aperture relative to the buckle, on a band, belt, strap or the like.

[0032] Tightening and loosening are easily accomplished incrementally, even if the belt is already secured in position. For tightening, all that one needs to do is pull the free end of the belt until the retainer portion engages the aperture in which it is already inserted. Loosening is accomplished by a simple movement as well. Assuming that the retainer portion engages a selected aperture, the belt can be loosened by permitting the aperture to move toward the free end of the tongue until it is seated against the tongue and the front bar of the buckle. Further loosening requires that the free end of the belt be pulled open, to release the tongue from insertion in the aperture, and inserted into the next aperture toward the free end of the belt. The belt is then pulled, assuming that an incremental adjustment is desired, until the aperture is seated against the retainer member.

[0033] It can be appreciated, from viewing FIGS. 3 and 4, that a unique appearance is created by having a significant portion of the tongue now overlying the belt, when an aperture is engaged or seated against the retainer portion. As shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, approximately ½ of the tongue member is shown, and this provides a decorative appearance, and provides an area in which decorative embellishments could be placed, if desired. A comparison of FIGS. 3 and 4, with an expanded length of the tongue member available for viewing can be compared to the minimal amount shown in FIG. 2, which is the appearance presented by conventional belts when they are in a secured position.

[0034] The normal indexing, of tightening or loosening of a conventional belt, requires movement of the distance X, as between apertures 16 and 18 and apertures 18 and 20. While the present invention has been shown with an incremental adjustment of ½ X, that is done for illustrative purposes only. A conventional belt may have spacing between apertures of approximately 1-inch, with a tongue length of approximately 1-inch. By providing a retainer portion, such as indicated at 32 in FIG. 1, approximately midway between free ends 30a and opposite end 30b, incremental adjustments of ½ X can be quickly be made. Of course, if retainer portion 32 were positioned at a different location along tongue 30, a different incremental adjustment would be made. For example, if a smaller incremental adjustment were desired, in tightening, retainer portion 32 could be positioned to the left of where it is shown in FIG. 1. Thus, an incremental adjustment would be something less than ½ X. Conversely, if a greater tightening were required, greater than ½ X but less than X, retainer portion 32 would be positioned to the right of that shown in FIG. 1.

[0035] While there have been described what are preferred embodiments of this invention, it will be obvious to those skilled in the art that various changes and modifications may be made therein without departing from the invention and it is therefore, aimed to cover all such changes and modifications as fall within the true spirit and scope of the invention.